Saturday, November 29, 2003

We Wuz Right

In a couple of posts Matthew Yglesias (here and then a followup here) discusses how incompetent the Bush administration is and that anti-war folks who argued against the war on this basis were ultimately correct.

This wasn't my only reason for opposing my war, but it was to me what always should have been reason enough to convince on the fence liberal hawks (which, if I remember correctly, did ultimately sway people like Kevin Drum). Hussein was neither a threat to us or his neighbors. The case that Saddam was a threat required proving the existence of WMDs, or at the very least an active WMD program designed to produce something truly nasty. This case, which we are now supposed to pretend was never made, was clearly fraudulent and dishonest - and this was obvious at the time. If your cause is so just, why be so dishonest about it?

The second reason to invade, for the minty fresh testogel crowd, was to simply show that we could. America's giant penis needed to impress the world with its mighty power by invading a sovereign state, just to prove that we could do it, so a bunch of other sovereign states would fearfully bend to our will. It was going to be quick and easy, and it would prove to the world that we could do it anytime we wanted to, so the axis of countries we didn't like that week would start obeying us. I don't even feel the need to explain why this is a bad idea, though one thing that the testogel crowd should have considered is the effect on the size of our mighty penis if this cunning plan didn't work out so well.

The third reason, trotted out about June or so, was that Saddam was a bad guy and he had rape rooms so the world is better off without him. All true, perhaps, but at what cost? For some reason the cost-benefit analysis crowd, always obsessing about the costs of minor environmental regulations, went AWOL on this one. If I'm of a humanitarian mind, I can quickly come up with many many many better ways to spend 430(and counting) lives and 200 billion or more tax dollars.

For me, the only possible reason to invade, once March rolled around, was reason number 3. And, if this were the reason, for the operation to be a success would require an administration which didn't campaign on an anti-Nation Building platform, and didn't generally express contempt for the values they were embracing.

As for the competence issue, about which Matt writes:

It's been clear for a while that something like this was the story, but I still find it almost literally unbelievable. It's just too crazy that anyone could have believed this. As I watched the administration publicly downplay the difficulty of handling the postwar situation and the scope of the commitment, I just assumed they were just trying to mislead people à la Clinton and Balkans peacekeeping. I wasn't even sure how much I disapproved of this policy of misleading. But it's turned out that they weren't lying at all -- they really believed this bizarre INC fairy tale and didn't do any real backup planning. They fired many of the people who had the situation correctly figured out and ignored the rest. It's shocking. I mean no one who'd looked at it seriously thought this stuff was right. At any rate, go read the whole story about the administration's pathetic Plan A for postwar Iraq. It's just bizarre.

What more evidence of incompetence did we need than this:

In his book It Doesn't Take a Hero, retired U.S. Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf describes the evolution of the plans he and his staff made following Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. As his mission to defend Saudi Arabia quickly grew into an offensive plan to drive Iraqi troops out of everyone's favorite oppressive rococo emirate, Schwarzkopf developed a four-step course of action intended to grind his enemy down into miserable fighting condition before finishing him off with an overwhelming and elaborately staged ground attack. Problem is, all of that grinding and staging took time — and quite a few of the people Schwarzkopf worked for wanted to see the lion eat the fucking gladiator already. Following one White House meeting at which he'd asked for more time and more troops, Stormin' Norman reports, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell called to warn the Desert Storm commander that he was being loudly compared, by a top administration official, to George McClellan. "My God," the official supposedly complained. "He's got all the force he needs. Why won't he just attack?" Schwarzkopf notes that the unnamed official who'd made the comment "was a civilian who knew next to nothing about military affairs, but he'd been watching the Civil War documentary on public television and was now an expert."

And then, twenty pages later, Schwarzkopf casually drops the information that he got an inspirational gift from Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney right before the air war finally got under way. Cheney was presenting a gift to a military man, and he chose something with an appropriate theme: "(A) complete set of videotapes of Ken Burns's PBS series, The Civil War."

But that wasn't the only gift that Dick Cheney had for Norman Schwarzkopf. Having figured out that the general was being too cautious with his fourth combat command in three decades of soldiering, Cheney got his staff busy and began presenting Schwarzkopf with his own ideas about how to fight the Iraqis: What if we parachute the 82nd Airborne into the far western part of Iraq, hundreds of miles from Kuwait and totally cut off from any kind of support, and seize a couple of missile sites, then line up along the highway and drive for Baghdad? Schwarzkopf charitably describes the plan as being "as bad as it could possibly be... But despite our criticism, the western excursion wouldn't die: three times in that week alone Powell called with new variations from Cheney's staff. The most bizarre involved capturing a town in western Iraq and offering it to Saddam in exchange for Kuwait." (Throw in a Pete Rose rookie card?) None of this Walter Mitty posturing especially surprised Schwarzkopf, who points out that he'd already known Cheney as "one of the fiercest cold warriors in Congress."

But, if you want more evidence of incompetence... how about their belief that the man who hadn't been in Iraq for 50 years would be welcomed by the people as their new leader? How about Big Don Strangefeld's insistence that this war prove once and for all that our military didn't need any actual soldiers?

The "grownups" in this administration were supposed to be people like Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Perle. Oh Sweet Mother of God Help Us.